Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mock Duck Cassoulet

This year, like the past 3 years, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my house. This year we had eleven people over for the big meal because we were lucky enough to have The Wife's sister and her family in town from Austin, TX, and my brother and his wife who moved back to Memphis this year from Seattle, WA, and her dad as well. Add my own dad, little brother, and mother-in-law, our Thanksgiving mainstays, to the mix, and we had ourselves one large, hungry crowd.

The first hurdle was to find a table long enough to fit everyone. We thought about building one, then buying one, and finally ended up renting one. It was the best option. The second hurdle was to find a room in our modest house where such a giant table could fit. There was only one option: my office. With a little help from our family, we moved years worth of stuff out of my office. We cleared it completely to make room for the table and all those who would sit around it to eat.

Why, you ask? Why would we go through so much trouble just to have everyone sit together? It is important to us, now more than ever. Besides, Thanksgiving is The Wife's favorite holiday of all time. There are no presents to buy. There are no eggs to hide. No staying up 'til midnight. I think she loves Thanksgiving so much because the main goal of the day is to sit and eat great food with people you love, and who wouldn't love that?

This brings me to the food. I know that the vegetarian main dish at Thanksgiving has some pretty stiff competition. It has to be something spectacular...something hearty and warm. So I decided to make a cassoulet. I have been a vegetarian since I was 12, so I had never tasted a "real" cassoulet, but Chef John Bragg served one at Circa during his totally vegetarian dinner this fall. His was delicious, and it inspired my version of this classic dish.

Here's how it went:

16 oz dried navy beans (soaked)
4 cans vegetarian mock duck (find this at the Asian market)
2 field roast sausages (crumbled)
1 large onion (large dice)
2 large carrots (diced)
1 parsnip (diced)
1 green & 1 red pepper (diced)
large can of diced tomatoes (with juice)
3 cups white wine
2 cubes of un-chicken bullion
6 cups bread crumbs
fresh parsley, oregano, bay leaf, sage
butter (yeah, lots of butter)
On medium-high heat, melt a quarter stick of butter (or more) in a enameled cast-iron pot. Brown the rinsed and dried mock duck in the butter, and then remove from the pot. Add the sausage to the pot and brown it up as well, and then remove it from the pot, too. Now layer in the onions, peppers, carrots, and parsnip in that order. Allow this to cook without stirring for about 4-5 minutes. Add the white wine and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the pot. Add the beans, tomatoes, bullion, duck, and the sausage to the pot. Stir. Make a bouquet garni by tying together a few stems of each fresh herb and then drop it into the pot. Cover and bring it up to a simmer; next, stick it in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours. Check it after 45 minutes and add some water if it looks dry. At this point remove the lid, remove bouquet, and add 1/2 the bread crumbs to the top. Cover and return the cassoulet to the oven for thirty minutes. These bread crumbs should get pretty wet. Cut two tablespoons of butter into the remaining bread crumbs, and them mix them with a handful of chopped parsley. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the cassoulet, and then return it uncovered to the oven for another 30 minutes or the top is nice and brown.
Wow. People honestly couldn't believe it was vegetarian. My dad teased me by saying that they call it mock duck because it is from the town of Mock, and not because it was fake. I know better. 

Everyone did their part. We had Lindsey's spicy cornbread stuffing, Bianca's butternut squash, Diane's sweet potatoes, The Wife's cranberry sauce, yeast rolls, baked apples, and pumpkin pie, Hunter's spinach, and my green beans. I think there was a turkey there, but I couldn't point him out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Duck Egg & Frisee Salad with Capers, White Asparagus, & Fresh Thyme

The Duck egg was wonderful . The yolk was much larger than the egg of a chicken, and the taste was far richer. Since it was my first time to taste duck egg I wanted to keep it simple and not hide the taste under ingredients that would compete too much with their mild, rich flavor. The dressing is simply equal parts olive oil and white balsamic vinegar mixed with some chopped fresh thyme.

The soup is what made it a meal. I simply roasted two large carrots, one kabocha squash, and one large shallot in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Peel the shallot and remove the stems from the squash. The peel of the kabosha is thin and can be eaten. Throw the roasted veggies in a blender with 1/2 up of cream and about a cup of water. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a pot and simmer on the stove. Stir in a pat of butter, lemon zest, and season with salt & pepper. I crumbled a bit of goat cheese on top before serving.

I Have a Duck Egg

What do I do with it? What would you do with it? Please leave me some suggestions in the comments section. TCV needs your help... before it is too late.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Indian inspired Vegetable Stew and Homemade Naan

Check out our updated (11/29/12) recipe  for Vegetarian Mulligatawny HERE.

Last week our friends Kelly and Michael (of Midtown Stomp) invited us over for dinner. It is an invitation that we never turn down. They are our very good friends, and Michael can cook up a storm. He told me that he was going to try his hand at mulligatawny, a dish I had made for them some time back. I have to admit, his was way better. For the most part his recipe is typical of most that you will find. The really different and delicious part is the addition of dried cherries instead of currants, and tons of cinnamon. It was awesome, and It went perfectly with the homemade naan bread that I brought over. I begged him to share the recipe and some leftovers.
Cooking implement needed: one large cast iron pot or dutch oven.

Saute one medium red onion in olive oil until tender, meanwhile start a pot of water to boil.
Add 4 cloves of chopped fresh garlic & saute until aromatic, approximately 30 seconds
Add 1 1/2 cups of white wine & cook for approximately 1-2 minutes. Add one cup of french lentils to the pot of boiling water.  Boil until tender, approximately 5-7 minutes.
Add 1 32oz can of organic crushed tomatoes to the onions, garlic & wine.  Fill that empty can with water & add to the pot.
Add 1 16 oz can of organic vegetable broth.
Add 3 medium carrots, diced.
Add one head of cauliflower cut into florets.
Drain the cooked lentils & add to vegetables.
Add approximately 4 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons toasted & ground cumin seeds & salt & pepper to taste. 
Simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Add one can of drained organic garbanzo beans & one can of drained organic sweet peas. 
Dice one small hot chili (or half a super hot one, like a bolivian which is off the skovil(sp?) scale) & add that to the pot. 
Add one can of coconut milk (liquid & solid).  Simmer until the milk is all incorporated. 
Add one large handful of dried cherries & one large handful of whole cashews, taste & adjust for seasoning. 

Serve with plain white rice & a chilled bottle of dry or off dry riesling.  If you would rather red wine, I would recommend a dolcetto.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rustic Parmesan Fries with Black Truffle Oil (100th Post!)

Save for puppies and long stretches of time with nothing to do, french fries may be my favorite thing in the whole world. Since I try to keep a healthy diet, I deprive myself of that type of fried goodness on a daily basis. However, every once in a while I give in to their salty siren song. This usually occurs around the intersection of Cooper and Young, ground zero for great fries in this town. The Young Ave. Deli deep fries freshly cut, skin-on potatoes in hot peanut oil, and then sprinkles them with seasoned salt. They are rustic and wonderful.  The Beauty Shop takes a more sophisticated approach to their potato preparation. Their long, thin, crispy potatoes come out sprinkled with parmesan cheese, drizzled in truffle oil, and served in a wax paper cone inside of a silver cup. The Wife and I nearly lose our cool making sure that we get our fair share of this indulgence. 

My version combines the best of both worlds, but instead of frying them, I bake them in my convection oven. You'll need:

2 baking potatoes (washed and cut into long, thin strips)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
black truffle oil
parmesan cheese

Preheat your convection oven to 500 degrees. Toss the potatoes in vegetable oil, and then arrange them in a single layer on a silpat-lined baking sheet. Stick them in the oven until they are brown. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer potatoes to a plate. Sprinkle with salt, parmesan, and then drizzle with truffle oil. The minute the truffle oil hits the hot potatoes, you will find yourself mesmerized by the intoxicating aroma. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grown-up Push-up

A little visit to the Wolfchase Orange Julius stand this past Sunday at noon when I was trying to turn my mind so completely off that all I would hear was an empty buzz (having no table or decent dining room for Thanksgiving, hearing about the fam's newly-hatched plan to celebrate Christmas at 5:00 on Thanksgiving-- yeah, I've been a little preoccupied...) made me remember how well oranges and vanilla match. Tonight I thought I would recreate that lovely drink with a Monday-night twist: Absolut Vanilla. Here's what you do:

Squeeze 4 oranges and one red grapefruit
2 shots Absolut Vanilla
1 c Stonybrook Farms fat-free vanilla fro-yo
vanilla bean or orange slice garnish

Mix it all up in a silver cup with a whisk and garnish. Serves 2. Tastes exactly like a push-up pop!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Apple-Ginger Cake

101 Cookbooks is really, really great. I, The Wife, have been dying to make some apple bread or apple muffins and have been acting like this is actually a possibility on weekday mornings when I have to be at work at 7:45 at the latest. And isn't it always the breakfast we can't ever seem to have that seems like the only one that would ever be ideal? I always imagine myself making things like this apple cake and getting to linger over the op-eds and a couple of warm pieces of fruit-and-nut bread straight out of the oven, or picking up some dark chocolate croissants at La Baguette, or getting to have two cups of cafe au lait instead of one gulped down while finding something, anything appropriate to wear to my job... 

So Saturday rolls around, and I finally have some time to make Heidi's Unfussy Apple Cake. (I think poring over her pictures of this on 101 Cookbooks this week is why I began to have this craving in the first place!) As usual, I did change a couple of things for taste as well as necessity. I added in the sugar from a bag of crystallized ginger and minced five pieces of it to include in the flour mix. I also sprinkled cinnamon and ground ginger on top of the cake along with turbinado sugar. We have not been to the grocery as often as usual lately because it has been enough at this point just to make it through the day and semi-enjoy a few things about it, so we've gotten pretty lax about having a stocked fridge and a neat house and really have had to focus on the basics. We also did not have buttermilk, so I used that trick of adding vinegar to milk and waiting a few minutes to simulate it. 
I love that you are supposed to leave the peels on the apples for this recipe: tres cute. The true test of whether a dessert is any good is if it is gone in a day, and this one passed that test. I felt like a circa-1954 housewife fetching water and coffee for Kelly and TCV once they came back from their 8-miler today as they commented upon how good the kitchen smelled. It was a great breakfast with them. 

Oddly enough, I remembered this morning that I was getting pumpkin bread out of the oven 3 weeks ago when I got the news about Suzanne. I just really haven't been in a dessert-making mood, I suppose, and haven't baked or cooked or put together a thing since then. Suzanne absolutely loved every dessert I created and made a point to ask me to be responsible for dessert when we did our family stuff. I think this, one of my only talents in the kitchen, reminded her of her mom, Juanita, who made the best checkerboard cakes and fried pies in the South. 

The Perfect Vessels

Check out my new band, The Perfect Vessels. Look to your right in "my other sites" box and click the link. It will take you to our my space page. We have three songs up on the page for you to hear. Let us know what you think. If you like it, make plans to come out to see us play on December 11th at the Hi-Tone.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bhindi Masala, Tandoori-Marinated Skewers, & Naan Bread with Homemade Raita

 I will freely and openly admit it: I cheated on this one. I had help from three different sources: The seitan and tofu skewers were made with a bottle of a tandoori marinade from World Market, the spices for the bhindi masala came from Fresh Market, and the frozennaan came from Whole Foods. This is really out of the ordinary for me, but with all that has been going on in my life lately, I needed a quick path to a good meal. So I followed the package instructions and then added a few tomatoes, some chopped spring onions, a couple of lime wedges, and fresh cilantro to finish things off. I served it all with my simple version of raita. You know what? It was great.

Simple Homemade Raita
Mix together:
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 cup english cucumber diced
8 oz of 2% geek yogurt